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Blog > The 3 Types of Breathing and Which One Is the Best

The 3 Types of Breathing and Which One Is the Best

Every breath is an opportunity to fuel your brain and body with the oxygen it needs to function at its best.
Woman in workout outfit practicing deep breathing

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Your breath is directly connected to your mental and physical health and well-being. When you’re unwell, your breathing is often the first thing that changes.

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, for instance, you may recall that your breathing rapidly increased in a matter of moments. Changing your breathing, however, can help you regain control over different aspects of your body.

Deep breathing triggers your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), deactivates your body’s adrenaline response, and brings you out of fight-or-flight mode. In other words, if you were able to get your breathing under control, you might have been able to calm yourself down and ride out what could have been a terrifying experience.

But how often do most of us really think about our breathing? Let’s explore the three different types of breathing and how an increased awareness of them can strengthen your health and well-being.

1. Thoracic Breathing

Thoracic breathing, or shallow breathing, is the least “productive” way to breathe. When someone hyperventilates, they often engage in thoracic breathing.

Your thoracic spine is the part of your body that extends from the bottom of your neck to the cradle of your rib cage. If your breathing mostly happens in this area of your body, it may look like deep chest breaths. But while deep chest movements seemingly indicate deeper breathing, deep breaths don’t necessarily mean the quality of your breathing is beneficial.

Since many people hyperventilate when experiencing panic or anxiety, getting out of the habit of thoracic breathing may help reduce stress.

2. Abdominal Breathing

In abdominal breathing, you breathe into the space below your rib cage. Abdominal breathing allows you to access more oxygen than thoracic breathing, giving your lungs more space to expand.

Although abdominal breathing is better than thoracic breathing, there’s an even more beneficial way to breathe…

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3. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is the most efficient and effective form of breathing.

Although your diaphragm is technically always engaged when breathing, consciously thinking about breathing through your abdomen can benefit your body.

Your diaphragm is a large bell-shaped muscle that sits beneath your lungs. When it expands, it allows your lungs to reach their full capacity.

Practicing diaphragmatic breathing can improve your lung capacity and help you strengthen your breathing muscles.

On average, people only use about 70% of their lung capacity when they breathe. Your lungs are a mighty organ, but they can lose strength if you don’t use them properly. So, practice breathing big and deep when you can.

Here’s how to practice diaphragmatic breathing to increase your oxygen intake:

  1. As you inhale, contract your diaphragm (the muscle directly below your lungs).
  2. As air enters your lungs, your chest won’t rise, but your belly will expand.
  3. As air leaves your lungs, expand your diaphragm and exhale.

You can practice diaphragmatic breathing while sitting at your desk, while at the gym, or while relaxing at home. In fact, why not give it a try now?

Best Breathing Practices

If you’ve ever trained as an athlete or a singer, you already know that breathing is integral to a good performance. These healthy breathing tactics can also carry over into many other areas of your life.

Meditation and yoga are other common practices in which you utilize the power of diaphragmatic breathing to benefit your body.

Here are some additional benefits of diaphragmatic breathing:

  • Lowers the harmful effects of cortisol on your body
  • Reduces heart rate
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves core muscle stability
  • Enhances your ability to tolerate intense exercise
  • Lessens the chance of injuring or wearing out your muscles

Top Breathing Exercises to Try

Yoga is an excellent practice to use as a foundation for breath work. In addition, here are a couple more exercises you can practice to work on your breath.


Kapalabhati is a vitalizing pranayama exercise that also cleanses the lungs. Forceful exhalations expel the old, used air out of the lungs, making space for fresh air enriched with oxygen. In this way, you cleanse the entire respiratory system.

Anuloma Viloma

During Anuloma Viloma breathing, you’ll practice inhaling through the left nostril, retaining the breath, and exhaling through the right nostril in a ratio of 1:4:2 seconds. You’ll then use the same ratio as you inhale through the right nostril, retain the breath, and exhale through the left nostril.

This practice can help your body find harmony throughout your whole nervous system and balance both hemispheres of the brain.

Every two hours, your brain activity shifts from one hemisphere to the other.

It’s said that yogis discovered this natural occurrence through self-observation of breath flow through the nostrils.

This means that when you breathe more freely through your right nostril, the left hemisphere of your brain is more active; conversely, when you can breathe more freely through the left nostril, the right hemisphere is more active.

Alternate nostril breathing supports this regular alternation of breath and, thus, brain activity.

The Bottom Line

Proper breathwork, especially diaphragmatic breathing, serves as a vital pillar of health and well-being. Every breath is an opportunity to fuel our brains and bodies with the oxygen they need to function properly.

And, naturally, gifting your body with what it needs in terms of breathing can benefit every other area of your life.

There are so many ways to optimize your life that are simple but seldom thought about. If you’re looking for more ways to enhance your energy this year, stay tuned for more information on Arootah’s energy seminar on Feb. 21, 2024.

Get actionable tips to help you energize and reprioritize self-care. Sign up for The Wellness Return newsletter today.

By providing your email address, you agree to receive email communication from Arootah

Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as professional medical, psychological, legal, investment, financial, accounting, or tax advice. Arootah does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability of its content for a particular purpose. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read in our newsletter, blog or anywhere else on our website.

Tags:  Energy | Health | Wellness
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